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Business of the House

Volume 803: debated on Wednesday 22 April 2020

Timing of Debates

Moved by

That the debate on the motion in the name of Baroness Wheeler, which is down to take place in a virtual proceeding on Thursday 23 April, be time limited to 3 hours.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Leader of the House, I beg to move the Motion standing in her name on the Order Paper.

My Lords, I have a question of which I have given the Chief Whip notice. How does this Motion, which limits the time in the Virtual Proceeding tomorrow, square with the Business of the House Motion we passed yesterday, which says in paragraph 2(d) that

“the time allotted to business in Virtual Proceedings may be varied by unanimous agreement of members taking part in the Virtual Proceedings”,

particularly in the light of paragraph 6 of the Procedure Committee’s guidance on Virtual Proceedings, which states:

“A Virtual Proceeding is not a sitting of the House”?

Which of these Motions takes precedence?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving me advance notice of this question, which is always helpful. It always helps the House as well, because your Lordships usually get a better answer. Today’s Motion limits tomorrow’s Labour Party debate to three hours. All party debates are limited in this way, usually by way of a Motion such as this moved on the day the debate is due to take place, but as it is not intended for there to be a physical Sitting of the House tomorrow, I am moving it today instead. As is the case for all party debates, the time limit has been set by reference to the Chief Whip of the party concerned, in this case the Labour Chief Whip, and notified through the usual channels. The operability of today’s Motion is not impaired by the Motion the House agreed yesterday. That Motion empowered the participants in a Virtual Proceeding to vary by unanimous agreement the time limit that applies to the proceeding. Today’s Motion sets the time limit that could theoretically be varied by any such unanimous agreement tomorrow, but I repeat that it would have to be unanimous.

In relation to tomorrow’s virtual debate, I also take this opportunity to draw noble Lords’ attention to paragraph 15 of the Procedure Committee’s guidance on Virtual Proceedings, which states:

“Speakers should still … observe speaking times”.

As the debate tomorrow will be time limited, I remind noble Lords that any time they take over the speaking time may prevent the Minister having all his available time to answer points made in that debate.

Motion agreed.